It has been revealed that the Church of England explicitly warned bishops not to apologise to sex abuse victims to avoid being sued
A previously unseen document instructed bishops too only give partial apologies, if at all, to the victims
Legal advice marked “strictly confidential,” was circulated among the most senior bishops, telling them to “express regret” to sexual abuse victims by only using approved wording.
The Telegraph reports:
The guidance – written in 2007 and finally replaced just last year – also warns bishops to be wary of meeting victims face to face and only ever to do so after legal advice.
It speaks of the “unintended effect of accepting legal liability” for sexual abuse within their diocese and warns them to avoid “inadvertently” conceding guilt.
The paper, seen by The Telegraph and confirmed as genuine, advises bishops to use “careful drafting” to “effectively apologise” without enabling victims to get compensation.
Survivors said it showed there was a culture of denial, dishonesty and “blanking” victims in ways which had heightened their pain and ultimately failed to tackle the roots of the abuse crisis.
It follows a damning independent review of the Church’s handling of sadistic abuse by Garth Moore, a priest and top canon lawyer, in the 1970s.
It highlighted how the teenager – known as “Joe” – revealed his ordeal to a string of leading clerics, three of them later ordained as bishops, who then claimed not to remember anything.
The report singled out the way in which the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, the Church’s then head of safeguarding, cut all contact with Joe, following advice from insurers, after he began legal action. The review condemned this as “reckless”.
Meanwhile Lambeth Palace brushed off around 17 requests for a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, without any “meaningful” reply, it shows.
Joe said the newly revealed document “made total sense” in light of his own experience.
“This finally exposes the culture that has been followed,” he said
“The approach to survivors is often a corporate model and this document supports that – it shows a church led by lawyers and insurers, you get the impression that these people are really their masters.
“A diocese is deferential to their bishop and the bishop is deferential to a bunch of lawyers.
“The Church will say ‘our hands are tied’ but they are paying the people who are tying their hands.
“They should say we need to stop this nonsense but they wash their hands like Pontius Pilate.
“Every part of this nexus [the bishops, the lawyers and insurers owners] washes its hands of every other part of it but the nexus is joined at the hip.”
The advice, by the Church’s top legal advisor, Stephen Slack, explains how bishops could find themselves being sued over the actions – or inaction – of their predecessors.